Starting medical school can be a daunting process (trust me, I’ve been there). But if you’re anything like I was, lost in the woods with nobody to help, then this one might be for you.
What to do before starting medical school?
Travel, read, relax and work out.
But wait, there’s more. Life can never be that simplistic can it?
So here’s the ultimate article on what to do before starting med school. So you prepare the right way.
- What to think about
- What habits to form
- Practical tips to help you survive
Having gone through the whole process myself, I wish someone would have told me the same things before starting.
Ready to get started?
What to Do Before Starting Medical School
Obviously, given my age, I appreciate my younger readers might not be able to do everything on this list. That said, a few, at least, shouldn’t cost you too much in time and energy.
And if you did just want to do nothing, stay home and chill instead? That wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world!
Read (Like Your Life Depends On It!)
Yeah I know you probably love YouTube, but how productive can you be watching that? Books, I’d argue, are better. They’ll open up your eyes to the world – something that will serve you well as a future doctor!
Non-fiction (self help style) is my thing; learning countless new things and new perspectives.
I’ve gained more from inexpensive books than I have any other flashy expense.
Pro Tip: Don’t go heavy on the science before school though, you’ll have plenty of time for that later.
My one pretty useful way of saving time and money, intermittent fasting, isn’t for everyone.
Saving some cash though, if you can, is a really good move to make before starting medical school. Any extra you can have in your pocket later can prove very useful should you need to shell out on emergency resources at some point during your studies.
Case in point: I needed to buy a new laptop during summer exams (yes, laptops beat iPads in med school) thanks to my old Macbook Air giving up the ghost. The extra change I’d saved up? Really helped me out of a tricky spot.
If you can score some summer work do it!
Get in a Healthy Routine
Building good habits now can pay dividends later. Get in a routine of good sleep (at least 7 hours) and exercise – start eating healthy too.
I started playing football in school after a long 5-year absence (shout out Drip FC). The extra fitness I cultivated before? Definitely helps. I’ve also kept on training calisthenics throughout – something that’s kept both my mind and body in check.
Get disciplined in these ways now and you’ll be sure to manage your time more effectively come med school.
Learn How to Use the Best Tools Ahead of the Game
Do yourself a favour. Forget everything you think you know about studying and check out this post; how to study medicine effectively. Active recall and spaced repetition are the best ways to get by in med school – make no mistake.
Learning to use key tools like Anki today will really help you save time and energy later when it comes to mastering material and acing exams. I recommend you start with Anking’s channel to get to know how this app works – as well as learning all the super things it can do for you for free!
Another recommendation? Familiarise yourself with r/medicalschoolanki. You’ll be visiting there a lot later.
Develop Your Cooking Skills
One thing I really wish I’d spent more time learning during my long (and sometimes painful) life? Cooking. Or cooking more nutritiously to be exact.
Learning to do so, given your intense upcoming schedule, will save you a whole load of time and stress further down the line. What you do learn to cook well you can carry with you during the day too. It’s often tough to find healthy food on the run. Especially as you’ll be dashing from one building to the next with very little time in-between.
Check out these books if you need some inspiration.
Cultivate a Winning Mindset
Another thing I really wish someone had sat me down and told me before starting medical school? Forget everyone else, and focus on yourself.
I’ll be honest here and tell you medical school can be a stressful place sometimes. Other students will be overly-competitive, sometimes teachers won’t be in the best of moods and patients won’t be in the most healthy of circumstances either. Amid all that craziness it’s down to you to look after your mental health.
If you can learn some effective coping strategies now; whether its mediation, prayer or whatever, those things can prove really useful when you’re suddenly in the thick of it. One last thing? Make friends with failure. It’ll be the best teacher you’ll ever have.
Pick Another Interest/Skill
Contrary to popular belief, you will have some downtime in medical school. Depending on what you want to do (I’m a massive advocate of developing new skills), it’s a good idea to pick something up that’s entirely unrelated to your course.
A good time to explore other interests is right now before medical school.
Longevity expert and former general surgeon Peter Attia (check out his podcast The Drive – mentioned in my article 23 Best Podcasts for Medical Students), recommends not even doing pre-med. Instead go deep into any other subject aside from the old familiar trifecta of physics, chemistry and biology.
Learning how to code, for example, would be something I’d pick (if I had time). I see it as being an integral skill expected of physicians given the future of AI. You can do this for free with sites like CodeAcademy.
Although I don’t do much of it anymore, travel really has been the best teacher. Broadening your perspective almost as well as books, seeing other cultures from the inside can bring many positive benefits for you ahead of starting medical school.
You could learn a language, make new friends, even volunteer and pick up a new skill – you’ve got a bit of time before your start. You don’t even have to leave your country too necessarily. Sometimes a trip away from the familiar can do lots to help you gain a fresh sense of perspective.
Maybe a bit controversial but I’d argue there’s no better way to really get to know yourself while getting to know other people. I’m not advocating playing fast and loose of course – that you can get you into a whole host of problems.
Dating around a little before med school can though, I’d argue, help build your confidence a little. Also help you better understand your own boundaries too.
Take it from the older dude who looks around and sees a lot of first-time-boyfriend-girlfriend carnage going on among my younger brethren…
Ignore the Typical Advice
Finally – I saved this one until last for a reason – ignore most of the typical advice you’ll find about what to do before starting med school.
Blogs like this and YouTube videos over there? Only present one side of the story!
A lot of this stuff you’ll just simply have to figure out for yourself.
Enjoyed this article? You might find the following posts useful:
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in digital marketing and journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.